Getting into the AGO for FREE!

We went to the Art Gallery of Ontario today to check out the new building and new exhibits. It cost $36 for the two of us to get in, but we’d later have that completely refunded for the silliest of reasons. Almost immediately security approached me and told me in a hushed voice that using a camera was not permitted. HA! As if. I’m not using a flash, and an awful lot of tax dollars have flowed into building this gallery, so I think I’m well within my rights to record my day.

Of course we didn’t stop. Why should we?

My jacket was getting a little warm, so I took it off and held it over my shoulder. A security guard came up to me and was like “excuse me sir, do you mind holding your jacket over your arm instead of over your shoulder so you don’t damage anything?” I just said “are you kidding? it’s not as if I’m bumping into stuff!” and walked away as he mumbled something passive aggressive. It’s completely ridiculous to tell me I can’t have my coat over my shoulder — it’s not as if they banned big purses or overly obese folk. And really, having it over my arm is way more likely to bump something than having it over my shoulder where I’m basically just half wearing it. Foolishness.

Later in the day, after we’d finished and looking at everything and were on our way to the exit, another security guard approached me asking the same thing…

Guard: “Excuse me sir, I’m going to have to ask you not to have your coat over your shoulder. You have to hold it over your arm.”
Me: “Yeah, that’s not going to happen.”
Guard: “You’re putting the paintings in danger when you carry your coat like that.”
Me: “What? That’s insane. The way I’m carrying my jacket is just fine!”
Guard: “Then I’m going to have to call my manager.”
Me: “Go for it.”

We were actually headed out anyway, but for the hilarity of this, we decided to stay and wait. The manager eventually came down, and three of them huddled for a while debating exactly how far a person with a jacket could come from a painting.

Manager: “Ok, we’ve decided to let you hold your jacket like that, but only if you agree you will stay at least four feet away from any painting.”
Me: “Well, I’ll stand a regular distance, the same as everyone else.”
Manager: “So you won’t agree to stand more than four feet away?”
Me: “I’m telling you that I will stand the regular distance away and that I won’t touch the paintings. I don’t know why you’re bothering me when that guy over there is actually touching the exhibit with the ‘do not touch’ sign on it?”
Manager: “If you’re going be like this, we’re going to have to escort you out of the building.”
Me: “Sure, if you offer me a refund.”

So yeah, they gave Caitlin and I both a full refund… So if you want a free visit to the AGO, just take your jacket off near the end of your day and let them kick you out too. Over the top lame and somewhat offensive BS — whenever possible I try not to follow rules unless they make sense — but a pretty funny way to score a free afternoon at the gallery.

In hindsight I agree with Caitlin’s assessment that this may well have been a beard-related hate crime.


  1. Luka wrote:

    That IS insane

    Thursday, November 27, 2008 at 3:32 pm | Permalink
  2. Nicole wrote:


    Thursday, November 27, 2008 at 4:39 pm | Permalink
  3. jinn wrote:

    I’d have to agree… my brother has a pretty woolly beard and people are usually pretty afraid of him too.
    Of course the last time my (black) husband and I were in an art museum they followed him around like he was gonna grab something and run.

    Thursday, November 27, 2008 at 7:06 pm | Permalink
  4. Dylan wrote:

    your the coolest person ever Shannon!

    do you think you will ever shave your beard?

    Thursday, November 27, 2008 at 7:32 pm | Permalink
  5. Brett Haines wrote:

    dear shannon, i was so glad to find your blog as i have been a huge fan ever since i found bme during my first ever use of the internet about 10 years ago. I was so sorry to hear your no longer with the website you created but i enjoy reading your updates very much and i love the mods you’ve made to your truck. i was wondering if you still have your camo 996 and if you have any other vehicles. i’ve just bought a new vehicle in australia which is available in the states as a pontiac G8 ST, but here it’s called a holden ute SS. Mine is a manual with a 6.0 litre LS2. amyway keep up the brilliant work shannon your a genius and a hero !!

    Thursday, November 27, 2008 at 8:33 pm | Permalink
  6. krs wrote:

    hehe, really hilarious.
    i experienced almost the same last tuesday at sprengel museum, hannover: they asked me to wear my camera bag (lowepro slingshot, a 1-strap backpag thing) not on my back, but in front of my chest, for the same reason. i smiled yes and continued the same. on our way out, someone approached me again about my bag (which is really small). i didn’t let it “escalate”, though.. we did get in for free anyway. :)

    Thursday, November 27, 2008 at 11:14 pm | Permalink
  7. JonnyButts wrote:

    Phffft, beard haters!

    Friday, November 28, 2008 at 6:07 am | Permalink
  8. wlfdrgn wrote:

    The no photography thing might have been due to copyright issues, if much of the art was newer. I’ve seen that, before, in a museum which just put little no camera icons on the labels for newer art which didn’t have expired copyrights yet.

    Friday, November 28, 2008 at 12:39 pm | Permalink
  9. Gillian wrote:

    That was my first thought too- they didn’t like the look of you(r beard).

    Friday, November 28, 2008 at 6:51 pm | Permalink
  10. choice wrote:

    no. if it were a beard hate crime they would have specifically asked you to wear your beard differently.

    my dad has a beard. it makes me angry to think people would disrespect him for it.

    Friday, November 28, 2008 at 7:29 pm | Permalink
  11. Mona wrote:

    This actually happened to me some years ago in Berlin. First I was told to not use my mobile phone (I was not talking, just writing a text message, made no noise whatsoever) and in the next museum they told me not to wear my coat in my hand but rather to bring it to the cloakroom, which I refused. Neither of the guards was particularly friendly.

    Saturday, November 29, 2008 at 9:22 am | Permalink
  12. Marshall wrote:

    I spend a lot of time in museums, and I’ve seen damn near every variation on “could you please do this nonsensical thing so that the universe doesn’t collapse.” The worst is when museums have a no pen policy, and you’re trying to take notes on works. Way to piss off the people who are going to be putting things into print forever…

    I usually am able to deter security by telling them that I’m a curator. I don’t mention that I’m not a curator at the museum in question, but they tend not to ask further questions (like why I’m not badged, or why if I work there, why am I wearing flip flops).

    Saturday, November 29, 2008 at 1:35 pm | Permalink
  13. Clive wrote:

    Most definitely a beard related issue. When they asked you to stand four feet away it was only so you gnarly beard wouldn’t touch the artwork.

    Monday, December 1, 2008 at 9:53 am | Permalink
  14. peteD3 wrote:

    oh Shannon, was it that big of an imposition?
    maybe im in the minority here but i could imagine a zipper tag scraping against a painting or something like that. good for the security to be watching out for the art, IMO.

    congrats on the free museum trip tho!

    Monday, December 1, 2008 at 12:32 pm | Permalink
  15. Shannon wrote:

    No, it wasn’t a big imposition, but that’s not the point… It was an illogical arbitrary rule that I don’t believe even exists on paper — I think conceding to low-level wannabe rent-a-cops is a mistake, even if it’s not a big deal.

    Monday, December 1, 2008 at 4:37 pm | Permalink
  16. peteD3 wrote:

    i can totally understand that perspective, and i probably would have restponded the same to a rent-a-cop throwing his/her weight around.
    but how can you be so sure “It was an illogical arbitrary rule” ?

    i can see how this person was just trying to protect the art.

    Wednesday, December 3, 2008 at 11:19 am | Permalink
  17. Shannon wrote:

    Well, for one, they allow people to carry purses over their shoulders. The rule makes no sense and is definitely arbitrary. I was NOT putting the art at risk!

    Wednesday, December 3, 2008 at 11:24 am | Permalink

2 Trackbacks/Pingbacks

  1. Famous by proxy › Put the potato into the pot on Thursday, November 27, 2008 at 7:34 pm

    [...] of Shannon, we had an hilarious adventure at AGO today. Despite that, I LOVE the new AGO. For real. I think it’s nicer than the Crystal [...]

  2. Still Famous After All These Years / AGO on Sunday, January 24, 2010 at 3:07 pm

    [...] I went to the AGO with them and took only a couple illicit pictures. And managed to not get kicked out. A beard free [...]

Wow Shannon, that's really annoying! What is it, 1997 on Geocities? Retroweb is NOT cool!

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